I asked 8 prominent professionals two Questions.
1/ If you were starting out again in your career of Magic, what would you do differently?
2/ What would you do the same?
From David Ginn, Children’s magic specialist
1/ Do differently ?
PROBABLY NOTHING. I have built my career from kid hobby at age eleven through trial and error . . . the greatest experience in the world. Also, it took me a long time to LEARN to be MYSELF and not somebody else. When I first saw David Copperfield perform live for 4000 people, I often walked out of his show thinking, “I’m quitting magic. I can never live up to that, never be that good.” But within an hour or two I realized that I am ME. I am unique. David Copperfield is a great performer and entertainer and an inspiration . . . but he can’t be ME. I can handle 500-1000 kids in a school show performance as well as any magician I’ve ever seen. I know my market, love my audiences, and am happy that I am doing what God planned for me to do . . . school shows, libraries, pre-schools . . . and writing books about how to do that, plus lecturing about it to share with other performers.
Yes, I guess I’d just do it all the same and make the same mistakes . . because that’s what put me here, being me.
From Gary Oulett, TV Magic Producer
1/ Differently this time?
Waste less time learning tricks that had no inherent entertainment value and appealed only because of some clever aspect.
2/ The same?
Read everything I could on magic – and see as much non-magic theatre as possible.
From James “The Amazing” Randi
I’d learn more fundamentals, like stage lighting, audio systems, etc. I had to learn it all the hard way, travelling around the world and picking it up from the real pros. It wasn’t easy.
2/ The same?
I’d still depend upon good friends in the profession who I had to lean on and look to for advice and help. I had Sid Lorraine, Ross Bertram, Tex Morton, Roy Benson, Jay Marshall, Joe Dunninger, and then Harry Blackstone Sr. to help me over the bumps. And I survived….
From Magical Legend Billy McComb
I’d concentrate earlier on comedy. People pay more to laugh than to be amazed .Magic can be the hook or anything else you are interested in. With me magic was my hobby which became my vocation. As soon as I had a workable viable act I’d get a good reliable agent who will work hard for me earlier in my career. One who either has no other comedy magician on his books and who is already designated as a hard-working agent OR with a very top comedy magician on his books so that he would know the route to take to have me follow in his foot-steps. That way he would have in me a meal ticket for the rest of his days which would be an incentive to him and I would be able to spend more time on improving my act.
2/ The same?
I’d still put all my savings in real estate. That way, like now, as I get older (eighty next year) I am more selective in what I do by selling a house every time I need money. Once you have one house you can use that as equity to buy another and put tenants in at enough to pay the mortgage and possibly enough over to maybe buy the next house money down. Just make sure the real estate market is sound and in an area which is progressing favourably all the time.
From CJ Johnson
Simple to answer. I’d listen more and talk less. Magicians have a tendency to want to talk about themselves too much. As I get older (and hopefully wiser) I’ve learned that I can learn a lot more by listening than I can by talking. While I still talk a lot, I do spend more time listening nowadays.
2/ The same?
You know, this is more difficult to answer than the first. On the surface I recognize that I’m where I am in life because of both the good and the bad choices I’ve made so I wouldn’t want to change anything. Therefore I’d have to say I’d do everything exactly the same. BUT – that’s not really the case. I think the one thing I’d do the same is to always try to learn about business as much as about magic. Growth is crucially important as an artist and as a business person and learning from others is the best way to grow.
From Mac King Vegas funny man
I would spend more of my college time learning about business, law, and the stock market.
2/ What would you do exactly the same?
I’m glad that as I was learning to be a magician I concentrated on doing magic for as many people as I could, in as many different venues as possible. I’m glad I read as many magic books as possible. I’m glad I learned to listen.
From Dan Harlan
Everything I’ve done, only quicker! Get your mistakes out of the way as fast as you can. Some are avoidable with proper advice, but many you just have to experience for yourself. Failure is the only way to learn how to succeed.
2/ What would you do exactly the same?
I saved enough money to live on for one year while I was establishing my magic career. That is the best thing I could have done. It will take a while to get the momentum going so you really don’t want to worry about your bills during that difficult stage.
From Greg Wilson
1) If I was to begin my career in magic again I would focus on performing more close-up and parlor style magic. I have spent many years performing as an Illusionist all over the world. With that experience to reflect on, I have determined that, from a business point of view, I could earn nearly the same “net profit” from smaller magic without the physical pain and expense of moving and maintaining the Illusions.
And every client wants your newest Illusion, which takes Thousands and Thousands of dollars to perfect. Illusionists who do not invest the proper time and money into their props and presentations diminish the perceived value of the artform by “cheapening” its appearance.
2) What would I do the same – it is very simple
Practice, Practice, Practice!!!
Hope that this helps your readers in their endeavors to perform and earn a living with magic. I have been doing so for 30 years, and would do nothing else.
The other day we were performing at the McComb Center for the Performing Arts in Detroit MI, USA. This is a 1,500 seat beautiful theater. It was the 4th performance that day to yet another sold out audience, and as I presented our closing Illusion, Excalibur, I remembered my childhood.
I remembered watching Doug Henning on Broadway and on tour, Harry Blackstone Jr. starting his tour that led him to Broadway, David Copperfield as a young man on the TV specials with my Father and me, and of course my Father, Mark Wilson .
And I thought, as a child, that someday I might grow up to be a great magician, and do those incredible Illusions – and there I was, on stage with a wonderful audience, on tour in America doing exactly what I had dreamed of as a kid…
And that out there in the audience, is another child, watching my show having the same dream of becoming a magician, instead of something that could really make money for him like being a doctor, or a lawyer, or the owner of a McDonald’s franchise.
Best of luck to you all,
Coming Soon! The 2014 Update!
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I’m sure there are others like me who’d love to know Your answers to the two questions!!!
Thanks for the comment Vince. And the challenge. I have a new round of performers giving me their thoughts over the next few weeks and I’ll include mine there.
So… what are your answers?
What a great Idea to put these questions to these gentlemen. Hope to see more like it.
What a great collection of thoughts from some of the giants of Magic. I particularly enjoyed the answers of Billy McComb.. very realistic advice on comedy magic and establishing a proper course.
Good thoughts here. Thanks for this.
Thanks Norm, there are some great secrets here. Timothy